Betsy Gidwitx Reports



The lyceum currently enrolls 258 youngsters in grades five through 11,[83] a decrease of 20 from the previous academic year. The families of 241 of these pupils have documentation proving that their children are eligible for emigration to Israel under the Israeli Law of Return, that is, that these youngsters have at least one Jewish grandparent; the remaining pupils, said Mr. Kinkov, may also be Jewish, but their families lack documentation of Jewish heritage.[84] Mr. Kinkov stated that the reputation of the lyceum is such that many non-Jewish families would like to enroll their children in the school.


All pupils at the lyceum are from middle or lower class families, Mr. Kinkov said. Wealthy families send their children elsewhere. In response to a question, Mr. Kinkov stated that about 95 percent of school families have computers at home and most are connected to the Internet; however, he continued, there is real concern among parents about unsuitable material on the Internet to which their children might be exposed. Parents want to know how to control what their children see and hear on their computers.


Some parents now are providing some support to the lyceum, Mr. Kinkov said. For example, they have provided funds for security measures and for certain repairs to the school buildings. Several have purchased computer technology accessories, complementing the equipment made available by ORT.


The Jewish Agency for Israel, he stated, has provided madrichim (leaders) for certain holiday celebrations at the school. The Jewish Agency also organized a shorashim (roots) trip to the Carpathian Mountains for 19 tenth graders and two teachers. The Israel Culture Center sends madrichim for Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day). Avi Chai awarded the lyceum a grant for three Shabbatonim, but it took so long for the funds to traverse the JDC bureaucracy that the school lacked time to plan for the Shabbatonim and thus these events were not held.


Mr. Kinkov also noted that the Brodsky synagogue now has a mobile matzot factory, which came to the lyceum to enable pupils to make their own matzot for Pesach. Mr. Kinkov stated that he also participated in this activity alongside the youngsters; it was very enjoyable, he acknowledged.


Pupils in grades 8 through 11 have daily classes in Jewish studies, responded Mr. Kinkov to a question. Three periods weekly are in Hebrew-language instruction, one in Jewish tradition, and one in Jewish history. Youngsters in grades 5 through 7 have two additional class periods in Jewish studies - one in Jewish music and another in Jewish art. Also, continued Mr. Kinkov, Jewish studies are integrated into the secular curriculum in several areas of study. For example, he said, pupils read Ukrainian or Russian Jewish literature as part of their coursework in Ukrainian or Russian literature and Jewish history is studied as part of world history. Older pupils create Jewish art on computers.


The lyceum received an award from Microsoft in the form of a new computer curriculum that includes software and lesson plans. Mr. Kinkov was flown to Capetown, South Africa, to receive the award personally, he said; he was the only person from Ukraine at this event. He enjoyed the trip very much, but acknowledged that he did not understand everything that was presented in the accompanying computer workshop; however, faculty at the lyceum are able to implement the new program.


In response to a question about a potential new building for the lyceum that he had discussed last year, Mr. Kinkov said that talks for another facility are in abeyance. The district education official with whom he had previously discussed acquisition of a more modern building is no longer employed in the same capacity; Mr. Kinkov would like to give the new person more time to settle in to his position before raising the issue again.


As he had stated in previous years, Mr. Kinkov said that the Lyceum would function at its best if all of its classes could meet in a single building with an auditorium or large multi-purpose room in which all pupils could meet and hold school events, such as assemblies and holiday celebrations. Additionally, the school needs a sports hall and modern science laboratories.


In speaking of school necessities, Mr. Kinkov also stated that a larger budget would enable the Lyceum to pay bonuses in order to employ the very best teachers available. ORT cannot compete with many other schools in attracting top-notch pedagogues, he said.



59. Time constraints prevented the writer from visiting the two remaining Jewish day schools in Kyiv. The Perlina School, an independent Chabad school under the sponsorship of Rabbi Yonatan and Mrs. Ina Markovich, is known for its outstanding preschool and its Hebrew- and English-language programs. It enrolls about 130 pupils in a renovated former preschool with an excellent outdoor playground and a soccer field; however, the facility is too small to accommodate expansion critical to development of a first-rate middle school and high school. The current building lacks science laboratories, adequate computer space, and an appropriately-sized sports hall. In common with other schools, the Markoviches have encountered severe difficulty in acquiring suitable school premises. However, the Markoviches have embarked on a new education venture, a school for autistic children, at another site. (See the following page.)


The Mitzvah School is a small preschool and elementary school accommodating about 100 youngsters. It operates under the supervision of Rabbi Moshe Asman of the Brodsky synagogue.


School #128 is a public school that housed an optional secular Jewish studies component from 1990 through the 2009-2010 school year. Established by the Israeli government in a drive to advance secular Jewish Zionist education (and provide an alternative to religious Jewish day schools then in early stages of development in Russia and Ukraine), School #128 never attracted a large number of Jewish pupils. The institution is, and has been, a mediocre public school with a steadily declining general student body and more rapidly declining Jewish enrollment. Despite the provision of an ORT computer technology program arranged by the Israeli government, the principal of School #128 was unsympathetic to its Jewish section; his hostility, combined with a diminishing Jewish pupil census, led to termination of Israeli state support for the School #128 Jewish studies program after the 2009-2010 school year.


In the meantime, the Masorti/Conservative movement is planning to open an optional Jewish studies section in another school that already has a significant Jewish enrollment and is respected in the city. The new program will be initiated in the 2012-2013 school year.


60. Rabbi Yonatan and Mrs. Ina Markovich opened a school for autistic children in Kyiv in 2010. In the absence of Rabbi and Mrs. Markovich, who were attending to family matters in Israel, the writer met with Natalia Struchek, director of the school, and Ina Sergienko, mother of a child with mild autism who is now enrolled in the mainstream Markovich Perlina school. The program for autistic children is named Дитина з майбутнім (Ukr.; English translation Children with a Future).


In an earlier discussion, Mrs. Markovich told the writer that she and Rabbi Markovich had been approached in recent years by a number of Jewish families seeking edu-cational programs for their autistic children. After unsuccessfully attempting to integrate several such youngsters into regular Perlina classes, the Markoviches decided to open a dedicated school for autistic children. They approached specialists in their home country of Israel for advice and visited various Israeli institutions working with autistic youngsters before proceeding with their plans. No full-day programs with meal or social services had existed in Ukraine prior to the launch of the Markovich program.


With the help of several families with autistic children, the Markoviches obtained an underused preschool building and renovated it according to recommendations of Israeli experts. The demand for such education is so great that the normally ponderous and corrupt Kyiv education bureaucracy issued them a 10-year operating license without even inspecting the facility, which, in any case, was not yet completed at the time operating permission was secured. The relevant official, who is known “to like envelopes”, i.e., to expect envelopes containing bribe money, did not request payment of any kind.


[83] Schools with lyceum status are not permitted to enroll youngsters in grades one through four.

[84] ORT schools frequently enroll some non-Jewish youngsters, especially from families in the school neighborhood, for reasons of public/community relations.

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